The reality of my publishing experience is expressed in this book. I both love it and hate at the same time, as publishing has opened doors for me and at the same time blocked off other avenues for success. For example, because I publish “documentary” books I’m not considered a photographic artist and my prints are generally not collected by museums and individuals. The kind of photographs I do are not pretty pictures for the walls of your home, but instead say something about the walls of your home.
I wouldn’t have ended up divorced if I had that security of a regular job. We were always hanging onto the edge. The next grant, the next book contract was always going to be the one to make it. It never did. Finally your dreams all crash, the dreams of communicating through journalism, through documentary photography.
Digital is just so much more fun. I don’t have to diddle with the darkroom anymore, or the camera. I can just point and shoot. I do not even put the camera to my face and look at the world through a straw with one eye closed. This is how I describe taking photos the old way. By closing one eye your depth perception goes away. I hold the camera out in front of me now, so I can look left and right and compose the shot instantly. I tell people, ‘What you are doing is hiding behind the camera. It covers half your face; and the bigger the camera is, the more intimidating it is to your subject.’
In the 1930’s – 40’s commercial photographers were considered the artists of their times. The scene shifted in the 1950’s – 60’s and the photojournalists who worked for Life and Look magazines were the most celebrated photographic artists. Today photojournalists are no longer in demand to tell us about the world, because TV does it with the evening news. Mass media magazines now use photographers to illustrate stories on movie stars, sports and newsmakers and are no longer the creative galleries for commercial and editorial photography.
I wanted people to be aware of the crass consumerism of the American culture, but young people are not taught to have social concerns. The emphasis is on being financially successful. Plus there is too much to do, and people can’t sort it out. Look in the Sunday paper, and there are a zillion things to go do. Why be socially concerned when you can go out and have fun?
I’d been traveling the world and suddenly I got to Livermore and I was in total culture shock. I had a wife and baby and everybody my age already had the house and the swimming pool and the two cars. I’m shooting the Rotary Club, the Junior Women’s Club and thinking, “Who are these people?” But I start to get to know them. I’d go out and shoot them for the newspaper and then think, “Man, I ought to go back and shoot this on my own time."